Bella Coola Musician Caley Watts (right) pictured with Serena Ryder (left) and Kinnie Starr (middle), producers of her song 90’s Kids.(Photo submitted)

Bella Coola Musician Caley Watts (right) pictured with Serena Ryder (left) and Kinnie Starr (middle), producers of her song 90’s Kids.(Photo submitted)

Bella Coola Valley inspires musician Caley Watts

Her new single 90’s Kids is an ode to her childhood

Nestled along the Bella Coola River in the Great Bear Rainforest, Indigenous artist Caley Watts grew up “skipping stones on a river bend [and] running wild until dinner” time, as she sings so beautifully in her new song, 90’s Kids, released on Oct. 12, 2022.

Her childhood was full of adventure, from fishing to gardening to hiking. Once inside, creatives flowed in and out of her home, often photographers, wood carvers or musicians – friends of her artist parents. Watts learned a lot during this time, listening in on many of the inspirational conversations.

With her mother of Cree descent, Watts’ family was adopted into the Nuxalk Nation. She described Bella Coola as a place of “infinite inspiration” with not a boring day in sight. She cherishes being in a community that, though small, is overflowing with talent.

Around the age of 16, Watts began playing the guitar and, a few years later, toured with her local band, consisting of her sister Niki Watts and fellow musicians Buddy Thatcher and Paul Grace Campbell. Together, they travelled and played at different music festivals.

Eventually, she moved to Vancouver and attended Emily Carr University of Art + Design. Despite pursuing visual arts and having access to the resources of a big city, her musical efforts continued to take off and she returned to Bella Coola, the place she said she feels the most like herself.

During the pandemic, the musical playing fields were levelled, as Watts described. Musicians – like everyone else – were forced into isolation, not entirely different for her already rural and remote community. However, this forced people to turn to technology as a way to connect.

This is just what happened when a festival director, known for connecting Indigenous artists with others, introduced Watts to her musical idols, Kinnie Starr and Serena Ryder. The trio met over Zoom and helped Watts write her song 90’s Kids. She described them as “very prolific musicians,” generous with their time and knowledge.

From there, she flew to Toronto, where she met Starr and Ryder in person and recorded 90’s Kids at ArtHaus Music. They spent over 13 hours in one day recording the song, which both Starr and Ryder produced. Multiple session musicians came in to play on the track, and Watts mentioned how much she learned from the engineer at ArtHaus.

Most recently, she returned from Vancouver after recording her debut album, set to come out later this year or early next year. The album was recorded at Afterlife Studios and produced by Jesse Zubot. Watts is the co-producer of the album and said “the album weaves themes of West Coast imagery, the environment and Indigenous culture.”

Many Indigenous artists are featured on the album, including Jason Burnstick, Wayne Lavallee, local Nuxalk singers and singers from Watts’ family. She described the experience of recording together as perfect.

Her lyrics are idyllic and describe her picturesque childhood running wild, picking fruit, scraping knees and encountering the many bears roaming the coastal forest. This is largely what 90’s Kids is about, an ode to her childhood. The opening line of the song describes her sister, “slicked back hair full of glitter.”

Watts still is connected with the elements that made her childhood so magical. She gets out almost daily for a hike with her beloved Australian Shephard, Banjo, who is always on bear alert.

She also loves gardening, something her mother taught her after growing up on a homestead farm in the prairies. Watts’ current home is a cabin next door to her parents. They share a communal garden and grow things like potatoes and squash – vegetables that grow well in the Bella Coola climate. She mentioned lots of sunflowers, too.

In the winter, they spend time canning and pickling and also have a cold room where they store their root vegetables. Though they’re not entirely self-sustainable, Watts said she loves sharing these duties with her family and that they’re able to help one another.

She loves the old growth in Bella Coola and how you can still see glimpses of how the land used to look. She said her community is very thorough in protecting the natural elements of Bella Coola, preserving them and keeping the area rich with natural growth.

The intuition she holds of her surroundings also applies to her inner self, where she said she makes micro-adjustments to keep herself centred. Whether it’s realizing she hasn’t been playing as much music as she should or skipping out on her daily hikes, she is quick to course-correct and keep herself grounded. She described this inner awareness as a “blessing.”

Caley Watts’ music can be found on all the major streaming platforms. You can also find her on Instagram and Facebook, along with her website,

Bella Coola

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